Friday, February 3, 2012

My SWTOR experience so far

Thanks to Star Wars: The Old Republic, my blog posting since December has been pretty sparse. Since it has been sucking up so much of my free time, I figured I might as well do a post talking about my experience in game so far. And of course I want to show off my toons.

I am leveling two characters side by side. One is a Guardian--an advanced class of the Jedi Knight--whom I play as a tank alongside my brother's Gunslinger (Smuggler advanced class) who does DPS. I was a little upset about this arrangement at first. I kind of thought I'd be a Jedi Sentinel--TWO LIGHTSABERS!!!!1!--but since my brother had already become a Gunslinger, it didn't make sense for us both to be pure DPS classes. So I chose Guardian. But why did he get his first choice class, while I had to choose one to complement him? Not fair! I still feel a pang of jealousy when someone walks by with two lightsabers, but I really like the Guardian skills and play style, and may even like it more than I would have liked Sentinel (hard to know without trying it out, though). Force Push just feels right--it's what Jedi are supposed to do. Here she is:

I have to say, though, that I really miss her hair. There are low level (~level 10) Guardian armors that have no hood, or wear the hood down, but after that, unless you're a Twi'lek, you have a hood up all the time. And hair doesn't animate under it--that would be too complicated (clipping is hard!). It's pretty low on the developers' list to implement a toggle hood on/off option, but I don't see why they couldn't just put in a couple pieces of mod-able hood down robes. After all, Twi'leks always have their hoods down, so they have the necessary designs already in the game. Ah well. Maybe some day I'll see my cute hair cut again.

My second character is a Sage, an advanced class of the Jedi Consular. She is a caster who really only uses her lightsaber to deflect attacks, something I can watch in the animation but not something I actively control. As one Sage on the SWTOR forum put it, "Don't use your lightsaber, except for nighttime reading." I solo her except for flashpoints and Heroic 4 missions. I have her specced for DPS, currently in the Telekinetics tree, but in a few levels I'll probably respec her to be a Balance/Telekinetics hybrid. If you don't play the game (or even specifically a Sage) that probably makes no sense, but if you do, it's an important distinction, trust me) Here she is, with her "Bubble" skill (Force Armor) active:

Both of my characters are currently level 28. It's been slow going, because I have two of them. Also, I haven't been playing quite as much as I would like to, in large part because I feel obligated not to ignore my boyfriend completely. He's so needy ;) Yes, this is the opposite of the stereotypical story of the games-obsessed boyfriend with the unhappy neglected girlfriend... I need to get him playing the game. And I might be able to if it weren't for the fact that his computer is old and can't run it. So I need to buy him a new computer. Anyone know of the cheapest computer that would run SWTOR? Let me know.

Anyway, so far, I love the gameplay. I've never played a game where I've had this many useful skills that I want to have hotkeyed. There just aren't enough keys (I currently have 18 skills hotkeyed, and counting...). But it keeps things varied and fun, and when I use the right skills the right way, it's very rewarding. I've found that I prefer both DPS and healing to tanking (I can't really heal anymore, but when I was lower level my Sage was a passable healer). Still, the better I get at tanking, the more I enjoy it. I also prefer ranged combat to melee, just because I'm kind of awkward and sometimes have trouble running around to find my target, or switching targets to a guy standing in front of me. Much easier just to stand still and hurl attacks at whomever happens to be my current target. For these reasons, I have to say that I prefer playing my Sage to my Guardian, because she's ranged DPS instead of melee tanking. I think I'm a Sage at heart--if I were actually training to be a Jedi in the Old Republic, I'd want to be a Sage.

Now I've said before that this is my first MMO. I played Guild Wars and Hellgate with my brothers, but those weren't true MMOs; you could see other players in the towns/stations and group with them, but once you went out into the combat environments, it would just be you and your small party. In those games, I only ever grouped with my brothers, never with strangers. I was thus a little worried about adjusting to teaming with people in SWTOR. I still haven't joined a guild, and I haven't done too much grouping with other people, but my experience grouping has been mostly positive. I've only had one bad group experience, and it wasn't actually that bad. It wasn't like the people were mean or unpleasant, it was just disappointing. We were already at a disadvantage trying to do the flashpoint with three players and a companion instead of four players, but on top of that, the companion that one player claimed was a tank started healing us (I think he lied), and the other player was three levels lower than the flashpoint. Not a recipe for success. After dying a few times on the first boss, the group leader recruited a Sage who was over 20 levels above us, and he just ran us through. I got some good loot, but it wasn't exactly fun, just confusing and hectic trying to keep up. Oh well.

Other than that, my other group experiences have been really good. Friendly players got together, we each had our roles and did them effectively, and we had challenging but manageable and fun fights. I might join a guild when I get to the end of the game and just want to run operations and pvp, but for now I'm happy as an independent.

The gameplay and team questing are great, but what ultimately drew me to this MMO in particular was the fact that it's a BioWare game and I expected interesting quests and engaging storylines. The stories and quests are not quite on par with Mass Effect (I hold Mass Effect 2 as a paragon of deep story and tough choices), but they're still great. In the non-class quests (which everyone in a faction gets to do), I think it's a little hard to have choices make a noticeable and lasting difference because there's a chance that your choice won't be the one acted upon--all players in a group make a choice, and a random roll decides whose choice "wins". If some other group member's decision had negative consequences you had to deal with throughout the game, it would discourage group play, and that would be bad. So I understand the issue there. Still, the quests are varied enough that they don't just feel like a list of chores (kill 10 X, collect 6 Y, etc.).

There are a lot of side quests in this game, but I'm currently mainly interested in getting deeper into the class storylines. At the very beginning, on their starting planet of Tython, I preferred the Knight's storyline to the Consular's. However, since leaving Tython, I think I've started to prefer the Consular storyline. Maybe they're about equal. This is all personal preference, really. All of the class quests are very different--they even had different writers--so you're definitely going to have some better than others. But that assessment is largely subjective.

Of the five class storylines that I'm familiar with (in addition to Knight and Consular, I've tagged along on my brother's Smuggler quests, plus I played a Sith Inquisitor in beta alongside my brother's Sith Warrior), the Inquisitor story is my favorite. I only played through the prologue, but it was really, really fun the whole way through. I don't usually like playing as a "bad guy", which is why I ultimately started playing as Jedi, but I'm looking forward to going back to the Inquisitor some time. I loved it. All the other class storylines are good, but just not as cool as the Inquisitor, in my opinion.

I have to share one fun anecdote about the Knight storyline. It's a tiny bit spoilery, but it's only from the end of the prologue (i.e. not very far in the game). And I won't name any names. Still, if you haven't yet played but plan to play a Knight and are sensitive to spoilers, you've been warned (skip to the second paragraph after the screen shot).

At the end of the prologue, you are attacked by a Sith Lord and have no choice but to kill him. He was a haughty (and evil) jerk, so after we killed him, my brother and I celebrated with a happy dance (our companions Kira and Corso were somewhat less enthused):

Here's the kicker: We had interrupted this Sith Lord in the middle of a holoconference with a few Darths, one of whom happened to be his father. Yes, we killed a Darth's son as he watched helplessly through the holo, and then we danced about it while he was forced to stand there and wait for us to come over to talk to him (so we could hear his livid threats). Surprisingly, we didn't earn any Dark Side points for this. You have to feel kind of bad for him, but... c'mon, he's an evil Sith! It was pretty hilarious.

Some other favorite moments in the game so far:
The other night, my Consular briefly got to impersonate a Sith Lord. Fun, different, quite amusing, and I even earned some affection points with Qyzen, my companion. Good stuff.

My favorite quest so far was the series of missions for the Gree Droids on Coruscant. I loved these quests just because of the quest givers, the droids, because of the way they talk. Apparently Gree senses place a particular emphasis on shapes and colors, and their speech patterns reflect this. They're also a fairly remote species, so their droids' translations are not ideal. Here's a video of them talking. Just listen for a minute or so, you'll get the idea:

I remember at first being so confused: I could follow along OK, and then suddenly the droid would say something about an orange sphere or red perpendicular. After a while, though, I got used to their patterns of speech, which was a true, satisfying pleasure. I thought it was cool that even in a galaxy with universal translators, there can still be language barriers. I've earned other titles for my characters, but I still proudly bear the "Black Bisector" title.

Well, I've rambled on long enough for now. Until my next SWTOR update, may red tangents envelop you as you descry multitudinous purple parallels.

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